Liberty Township’s resolution proposing $1 million in annual payments from Delaware County for emergency medical reimbursement leaves county officials with a decision to make.
Trustees Melanie Leneghan and Mike Gemperline last week voted to approve the resolution asking for $1 million, and tabled a second resolution that would officially hand responsibility of the township’s EMS to the county.
According to Leneghan, that resolution will be revisited if negotiations with the county do not appease the trustees.
“The ball (is) in their court,” she said.
Minutes after that decision was made Feb. 19, Delaware County Commissioner Barb Lewis was ready to talk on the issue.
She said the $1 million demand was “unworthy of a serious response” and criticized Leneghan and Gemperline for approving it.
“Both these trustees have lost all credibility and they are creating a real public safety hazard for Liberty Township and the surrounding jurisdictions,” she said.
Commissioners Jeff Benton and Gary Merrell could not be reached for comment last week.
The county does not provide primary EMS to the township, but according to emergency medical services Chief Mike Schuiling, township officials are correct when they say they can force the county to do so under laws in the Ohio Revised Code.
“If they decide they’re not going to run EMS for any reason, that would be the county’s responsibility,” he said. “(A county) cannot pick and choose where they (provide EMS).”
Lewis, however, said she believes the county would be under no obligation to immediately take over EMS operation until the township fired its cross-trained, fire-based EMS employees.
“If their EMS is absolutely gutted, we would have to step in as a provider because we can't have certain areas uncovered,” she said.
In that area, Schuiling is unsure.
He said he’s not aware of any comparable cases, and said he isn’t certain whether the township could maintain its current staff and call Delaware County the primary provider, sending the message that the township’s staff is “just there to back (us) up.”
“That’s one of those complexities,” he said.
Lewis said the commissioners made their Feb. 7 decision to pull a proposal to take over Liberty EMS “at the urging of Powell police Chief Gary Vest and other leading first responders” and said patient care is the current focus before the county addresses “equitable cost-sharing formulas for the whole county, including our underserved rural areas.”
“What’s their rush? What’s broken?” she asked, mirroring the questions Trustee Shyra Eichhorn raised in Liberty Township.
“We can accomplish all this together, but only if our elected officials act responsibly,” Lewis said. “These two township trustees have been acting irresponsibly for four months, wasting everyone's time and causing real anguish. Their actions are totally unacceptable and must be flatly rejected.”